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UC Davis chemist in 2013 apartment blast to pay restitution

David Snyder, the onetime UC Davis research chemist serving time on explosives and weapons charges after triggering a 2013 blast at his Davis apartment, was ordered to pay nearly $100,000 in restitution Friday in Yolo Superior Court.

Snyder must pay $81,597 to Tandem Properties, the Davis company that manages the Russell Park apartments where Snyder was a tenant, and more than $18,000 to UC Davis for soil testing related to hazardous chemicals Snyder used, Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock ruled. Snyder attorney Linda Parisi said she and prosecutors will continue to negotiate issues related to restitution.

Snyder, bespectacled and clad in the gray-and-white Yolo County jail fatigues he has worn since his November sentencing, sat shackled for the brief late-morning hearing.

Snyder, who last September pleaded no contest to 17 explosives and weapons charges connected to the blast, was sentenced in November to four years, four months in custody. He is serving half that time in Yolo County custody as part of that sentence. Snyder will serve the remaining time under mandatory supervision.

Snyder appeared in good spirits at the hearing, smiling and chatting at one point with attorney Parisi.

“It’s under difficult circumstances, but he’s handling it the best he can,” Parisi said.

The UC Davis alum had been a star on the rise – a popular and highly regarded student scientist named an Outstanding Graduate Student at UC Davis in 2005, later receiving a $10,000 grant in the 2008-09 academic year for his work. He later worked at UC Davis’ noted Kurth Lab and for a University of California, San Francisco, cystic fibrosis researcher.

That was before the middle-of-the-night blast Jan. 17, 2013, that bloodied Snyder, forced the evacuation of his apartment complex, scattered residents and brought bomb squads to the chemist’s home from across the Sacramento region.

Snyder’s defense attorneys throughout the trial and again following Friday’s hearing maintained their client was a dedicated scientist whose at-home, after-hours experimentation went horribly wrong.

Parisi said Snyder was performing experiments to try to extract nitrogen from water, related to his research into gastrointestinal diseases in the developing world, when the blast ignited.

But Yolo County prosecutors saw someone much more dangerous, a man whose blast-damaged home contained nitroglycerin and other explosives including RDX, found in military-grade C-4 explosives, and vials of other explosive chemicals, along with a small collection of weapons and ammunition.

That Snyder enlisted Tashari El-Sheikh, a friend and postdoctoral engineering employee, to round up and dump the chemicals after the blast only sharpened their suspicions. Authorities quickly found the chemicals in trash bins at several locations across Davis but never located El-Sheikh.

Nearly two years after Yolo County District Attorney’s Office filed felony accessory charges against El-Sheikh for allegedly dumping the dangerous chemicals, authorities are still seeking the mechanical and aerospace engineer.

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

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